I used to be a huge fan of RTS games when I was younger. No, not the multiplayer. I was never good at it and never found it that enjoyable anyway. I just liked commanding armies against other armies in single player campaigns. Recently I built myself a nice new computer and I wanted to play an RTS again. So I settled on Re-Legion, a unique cyberpunk RTS that has some interesting ideas. However, is Re-Legion able to execute those ideas, or should it go back to basics?
The plot focuses around a man named Elion who has amassed a cult in an effort to take down corporations and a mysterious group known as "The Ones". After a quick in medias res intro, we flash back to see Elion returning to the city after a self-imposed exile. He links up with a local resistance cell and gains their trust by proposing to destroy the mind control device that makes everyone do little more than seek hedonistic pleasures such as alcohol and sex. You see, apparently, the resistance's leaders have never actually considered that this device is why people are so hesitant to join the resistance, and thus have never considered taking it out before. So they let Elion join and starts his path towards freeing the common citizen.
If you can't tell, Re-Legion's writing is rather lacking. The game tries to set Elion up as this super smart cult leader, but he's only smart because everyone else is a blithering idiot. Later in the game, even Elion becomes dumb. He can take "hard stances" against something and then change his mind only minutes later. If you ever need Elion to do something you merely need to ask twice. It doesn't help that some of the jokes or one-liners totally miss their mark. At one point, a character actually says a robot is more complicated than "making a joke in the era of political correctness." It's not great.
The basic ideas aren't too different from many RTS games. You'll be gathering an army of various units, each with advantages and disadvantages, to destroy the enemy forces. What's really different is how the game handles resources. There are three in total that you'll be using to build your army. One is crypto, which you can hack banks for and works almost exactly like you'd expect cash too. The second is faith and is a little more interesting. Faith serves both as a resource and as a general mana pool for your units. You can earn faith over time, or have units pray to both fill their personal pool along with the overall faith and, eventually, other characters pools.
More interesting is just how you get units into your army. Sure, you need both crypto and faith to "buy" them, but you can't just make a unit appear out of thin air. No, in Re-Legion you have to actually evangelize random citizens. Each time you want to train a new soldier, you need to make sure you have someone on standby to actually become that soldier. At first, Elion has to do all the converting himself, but later you do get units that will wander the streets and nab people for you. It's an interesting mechanic, one that reminds me of Stronghold, which was an RTS favorite of my youth. Unfortunately, I also quickly found out that random civilians spawn in super predictable numbers at predetermined areas, and soon it became trivial to keep my army stocked.
This is the story of Re-Legion. Every interesting idea it has ended up either being trivially avoided or not fleshed out enough to matter. One such idea is your cult's dogma, which mostly serves as an upgrade tree. The idea is interesting, but the upgrades are almost entirely focused on new abilities for Elion with a few passive buffs thrown in. Furthermore, you can pay for all the upgrades with faith and carry over to the next level. If you want then you can spend an early level grinding out faith to quickly nab the entire tree and never have to think about it again.
Another is that you don't build buildings, but rather hack them in the map when you come across them. You'd think this means you'd need to be smart on how you deploy your forces so you can defend these positions. However, the AI doesn't ever try to hack buildings on their own, and will only attempt it if it's on their pre-determined route. You'll immediately know which buildings you have to defend, and which you can ignore entirely.
Sadly, it's here where the basic RTS elements begin to fall apart. The enemy AI is just not up to the task, and enemies follow a set pattern. You'll always see their attacks coming because they just reuse the same attacks over and over. Before long I discovered that a blob of guys with guns basically defeated anything and that no planning was needed. Pathfinding is not that great either, and I usually found units stuck on geometry or huge clumps of convertible citizens stuck at the entrance to a subway tunnel. Like many RTSes, Re-Legion has hero units that are stronger than normal. However, if Elion dies then you're allowed to revive him for minimal cost. If any other hero dies, it's game over. There's no reason why only one hero gets a revive and the rest don't.
It doesn't help that Re-Legion seems to lack the necessary content. There's a nine-mission campaign which took me about seven hours to beat. After that, there's nothing else. I expected there to be no multiplayer, but the lack of any sort of single-player skirmish missions is really baffling. There simply isn't the content required for longevity or experimenting with the units in unique ways, and it's a real shame.
At least Re-Legion has a great art style going for it. I loved how everything took place in the same city, opening up new areas to explore with each mission. The art design is wonderful, and the way advertisements would glitch out looked great. There's also a fantastic soundtrack to go with it, fitting the tone of the scenes perfectly. I just wish the voice acting was of the same quality. As is, it often sounds like confused people mumbling into their microphones.
It's all a shame because I really do think that Re-Legion has some great ideas. What it has trouble doing is executing those ideas. None of the missions are interesting enough to force you to do anything more than the most basic RTS blob creation tactics, and that doesn't even work correctly all of the time. A game like Re-Legion has all the ideas of a smart cult. Once you join, you realize there's no substance to go with it.
TechRaptor reviewed Re-Legion on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
Re-Legion has some fantastic ideas, but can't manage to execute any of them in a meaningful way.
- Great Currency System
- Interesting Conversion Mechanic
- Lovely Art and Sountrack
- Dumb Story
- Bad Execution on Unique Ideas
- Many Gameplay Issues
- Not Enough Content
- Iffy Voice Acting